Today (30th July) NASA has launched the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover at its tip from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Heading on a six-month journey to Mars, the self-driving car will descend onto the red planet in the hope of hunting for evidence of life and collect rock samples for a return journey to Earth .
Upon successfully touching down on the seemingly barren wasteland of Mars, Perseverance will embark on a 687 day (one Mars year) mission to scour the landscape using its in-built technology to hopefully detect signs of ancient life.
Perseverance is equipped with seven instruments to give it the best chance for success. Here’s what’s aboard the rover.
1) Mastcam-Z An advanced camera system for panoramic and stereoscopic (production of the illusion of depth) imaging. This technology will also be able to detect the chemistry and physical properties of the source of Mars.
2) SuperCam In a similar way to the Mastcam-Z, this camera will provide imaging of chemical composition and mineralogy, but at a distance.
3) Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) This is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer which will be able to map fine-scale elemental composition of the surface materials.
4) Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) This spectrometer that will use an ultraviolet (UV) laser to map mineralogy and organic compounds. SHERLOC will be the first UV Raman spectrometer to find itself on Mars and will also produce high-resolution colour microscopic imaging.
5) The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Is a piece of technology that will produce oxygen from Mars’s carbon dioxide to demonstrate a way that future explorers may produce oxygen on the surface.
6) Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) This sensor will measure the temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, humidity and dust size and shape.
7) The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) Looking below the surface this radar can produce a centimetre-scale resolution of geological structures beneath the ground.